Sep 07, 2004

Taiwan: Taiwan mulls new Policy to differentiate from China

Taiwan's Foreign Ministry is considering a proposal to use the name "Taiwan" more frequently to distinguish the Island from rival China
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Taiwan's foreign ministry is considering a proposal to use the name "Taiwan" more frequently to distinguish the island from rival China, a spokesman said on Tuesday, in a move likely to anger Beijing.

While stressing the island's official title remains "the Republic of China," the foreign ministry said it is studying a politically sensitive proposal to give priority to its unofficial name, Taiwan, in less formal arenas.

"The main consideration is to tell the external world that we are not the People's Republic of China," said foreign ministry spokesman Michel Lu. "People may confuse the Republic of China with mainland China and give it credit for things we do."

The move came after President Chen Shui-bian said last week that Taiwan can be "an abbreviation" for the Republic of China, sparking criticism from Beijing, which said he was trying to steer the island toward independence.

China considers Taiwan to be part of its territory, and sees any change to the island's official title as an attempt to declare formal statehood by a renegade province. Tensions have been simmering since Chen won a second four-year term in March.

The Republic of China is the name under which the Chinese Nationalists governed the mainland, and the title was brought to Taiwan after they lost a civil war to the communists in 1949.

The Nationalists ruled Taiwan for five decades before they were ousted by the independence-leaning Chen in 2000.

Lu said the island will use its official title in documents to diplomatic allies. But the ministry is considering giving priority to the Taiwan name in verbal communications and in dealings with countries with which it does not have formal ties.

The suggestions were made at a meeting chaired by Vice Foreign Minister Michael Kau last Saturday and need to be finalized before the foreign ministry will send a formal proposal to the cabinet for approval, Lu said.

China uses its growing diplomatic and economic power to isolate the island, preventing it from joining international organizations like the United Nations. Only 26 countries have diplomatic ties with Taiwan -- mostly small, impoverished states.

There have been fears Haiti would cut ties with Taiwan amid reports that China was sending troops to the Caribbean island as part of a U.N. peace-keeping force.

Lu said 125 soldiers from China would be part of the U.N. security force and Taiwan was closely monitoring the situation.

"It is common knowledge that mainland China hopes to use various methods to put pressure on the Republic of China's allies," he told a news conference.

Last October, Liberia broke off relations with Taipei and recognized Beijing instead. Taiwan had blamed the move on political pressure from China in the United Nations, which had also sent a mission to Liberia.

Source: Reuters